DIMACS/MBI US - African Initiative: Clinic on the Meaningful Modeling of Epidemiological Data

May 24 - June 4, 2010
African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), Muizenberg, South Africa

Steve Bellan, UC Berkeley, sbellan at berkeley.edu
Jonathan Dushoff, McMaster, dushoff at mcmaster.ca
John Hargrove, SACEMA, jhargrove at sun.ac.za
Juliet Pulliam, NIH, pulliamjuliet at mail.nih.gov
Fred Roberts, DIMACS, froberts at dimacs.rutgers.edu
Jim Scott, St. Olaf College
Alex Welte, University of Witwatersrand
Brian Williams, WHO-retired, williamsbg at me.com

Presented under the auspices of the DIMACS/MBI US-African Initiative.

This Clinic is jointly organized with The Mathematical Biosciences Institute at Ohio State University (MBI), the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), and South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA) .

This Clinic is jointly sponsored by:

Applications Requested from Interested Graduate Students, Postdocs and Researchers

In May 24 - June 4, 2010, DIMACS/ MBI/SACEMA/AIMS will hold a Clinic on Meaningful Modeling of Epidemiological Data for researchers interested in developing a better understanding of the relationship between mathematical theory and biological data.

 Location: African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), Muizenberg, South Africa

 Dates: May 24 - June 4, 2010

 Funding: Participants' travel and local expenses will be covered through funds provided by DIMACS, SACEMA, MBI, and the US National Science Foundation

About the Topic:

Successful model development should never be divorced from data, but sometimes is. Abstract mathematical models, unchallenged by data, do not generally provide the basis required for providing evidence-based advice to policy makers in the fields of biology, epidemiology and medicine. In fact, in some cases they can interfere with understanding and mislead researchers and policy makers. Past institutes and conferences sponsored by DIMACS, in collaboration with AIMS and SACEMA, showcased the burgeoning talent of young researchers with an impressive array of oral and poster presentations that highlighted the application of mathematical models to a variety of medical, epidemiological, and biological problems. However, the models were not adequately tested by being fitted to the data. It became apparent that the next step would be to ensure that such talented mathematicians were engaged in real biological data and questions in a meaningful way. This modeling clinic addresses these problems in an experimental effort that, if successful, will be replicated in the future, both as a self-standing event and in the Advanced Study Institutes funded through the DIMACS/MBI African Initiative.

About the Clinic:

The Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS), in collaboration with the South African Centre for Epidemiological Modeling and Analysis (SACEMA), and the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) is holding a 2 week modeling clinic that will emphasize the use of data in understanding infectious disease dynamics. The Clinic will bring together graduate students, postdoctoral students, and researchers from the United States and Africa, with the goal of engaging the participants in epidemiological modeling projects that use real data to grapple with practical questions in a meaningful way.

The Clinic will consist of a series of discussions and tutorials that will guide participants through the process of data based epidemiological modeling. The participants will then apply what they have learned, using similar techniques to additional data sets. While the organizers will be prepared with their own analyses of the data sets, it is expected that the process will be open-ended and interactive and that the participants' models will not exactly match the organizers' expectations. Participants are encouraged to bring data sets and questions to the Clinic, and to start collaborative projects with each other or the organizers. Various statistical and modeling paradigms will be discussed. Computer exercises and group projects will reinforce and extend the various concepts covered. Participants are encouraged to continue research projects begun during the Clinic when they return to their home institutions.

Students and researchers with prior exposure to mathematical epidemiology are encouraged to apply, and all participants will be required to present a poster on previous or ongoing research that is related to the Clinic's themes.

Through funds provided by the US National Science Foundation and SACEMA, funding is available via DIMACS, AIMS, and SACEMA to help cover the food and lodging of Clinic participants. Partial travel support will be available for a limited number of US applicants. The application process for the Clinic is highly competitive; applicants are urged to submit their application materials as early as possible.

The deadline for receipt of applications is February 15, 2010.

A description of the application procedure, eligibility requirements, and all necessary forms are located online and can be accessed through the Clinic's website:

Special Lecturers:

Criteria for Selection of Participants: The clinic is open to graduate students, postdocs, and researchers from all areas of science (genetics, bioinformatics, computational biology/chemistry, etc.) and the mathematical sciences (Mathematics, Statistics, Operations Research, Computer Science). Participants will be selected based on their applications, experience outlined in their curriculum vitae, and statement of interest and commitment provided by the applicant describing the continuation of the research project begun during the institute as well as a new project begun afterward. Graduate students will be asked to submit a letter of recommendation in addition to the other application materials. Participants selected for the institute will be from the United States and half from Africa, creating an opportunity for establishing early collaborations between junior researchers.

We expect participants to have the following mathematical background:

Experience with computer algebra software would be useful but not required.

About the Location:

The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) is located in Muizenberg, a small seaside suburb of Cape Town and an area of outstanding natural beauty. Lecturers and participants will stay and dine at AIMS, allowing for maximal contact time in an informal and collegiate setting.

Additional Information: See the clinic website http://dimacs.rutgers.edu/Workshops/MMED/ to:

Send additional questions to email address to come, or telephone at 1-732-445-0075.

This is part of the DIMACS/MBI African Initiative Project.

DIMACS was founded as a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center and a joint Project of Rutgers, Princeton University, AT&T Labs, Bell Labs, NEC Laboratories America and Telcordia Technologies. Affiliate Members: Avaya Labs, Georgia Institute of Technology, HP Labs, IBM Research, Microsoft Research, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Stevens Institute of Technology.

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Document last modified on January 7, 2010.